The Care and Breeding of Caiques


[Author's Note: The following information is based on my personal experience and should not be interpreted as the only way to care for or to breed caiques. Any reference made to "caique" is referring to both the Blackheaded and White-bellied Caiques, as they are virtually identical in behavior.)


'"T1his article was brought about 1 because of the many questions I have received over the years regarding the care and breeding of caiques. Hopefully, this information will answer most of the frequently-asked questions and will also enlighten those who are not familiar with the caique.

I observed my first caiques while helping a friend unload a shipment of parrots into his Los Angeles facility during the early 1970's. The 10 wildcaught White-bellied Caiques were among a large shipment of macaws imported from Bolivia. Their striking color and comical antics immediately endeared them me to and they became the nucleus of my breeding stock.

Throughout the years, they have proven to be one of the most intelligent species of birds that J have worked with; which includes macaws, Amazons. cockatoos, African Greys, conures, and most of the Australian parakeets.

The handfed caique makes an exceptionally loving pet that immediately becomes a member of the family and frequently the center of family life. Handfed caiques pave the characteristics of being friendly to friend and stranger alike, an important asset when choosing a family pet. Description

The most common of the caiques

is the Black-headed Caique Pionites melanocepbala. They are found in South America predominately north of the Amazon River.

The Black-headeds have a black forehead, crown and nape. They have a green streak under the eyes and lores, cheeks and throat are orangeyellow. Across the back of the neck they have a wide dark orange band, bordered above and below by a few blue tinged feathers. Their backs, wings, rump and upper tail-coverts are green. Their breasts and abdomen area are creamy-white. Their thighs, sides of abdomen and flanks are orange. Their under wing-coverts are green; axillaries reddish-orange; under tail-coverts yellowish-orange; their primary coverts and primaries are violetblue edged with green; carpal edge greenish-yellow. Their tails are tipped with yellow. They have gray-black beaks and legs. Adult birds have a dark orange iris. Adults are approximately nine inches in length and weigh approximately 180 grams.

Immature birds are a dull version of the adults with the addition of a yellow wash through area of the abdomen. Immature birds have a dark iris.

Black-headed Caiques were generally imported from Guyana. Imports numbered 300 to 500 per year, through 1992. The Black-headed has one subspecies, the Pallid, which is very rare in captivity.

The White-bellied Caique Pionites leucogaster is found in South America, generally south of the Amazon River. The White-bellied has a bright orange crown, nape, hindneck and upper earcoverts. The lores, throat and sides of the head are yellow. The back, wings, rump and tail-coverts are green. The breast and abdomen are creamy-white; flanks and thighs are green; under tailcoverts are green; primary-coverts and primaries violet-blue edged with green. The beak is horn-colored, legs are pink, and the iris is red in adult birds. Adults are approximately nine inches in length and weigh approximately 190 grams.

Immature birds again are dull versions of the adults with a heavy yellow wash on the abdomen, black blotching on their feet and have a varied amount of black feathering on the headto which there is no uniformity. In the same clutch, a baby may have half of its head covered with black feathers and its nest mates may have no black feathers at all. The black feathering usually occurs intermingled with orange feathers, but on occasion can be solid. This gives the appearance of a black cap. Usually by three years of age all of the black feathers have been replaced by bright orange feathers. Birds that have had heavy black feathering as babies, have had darker orange feathering as adults.

Very few Green-thigh White-bellied Caiques were exported out of South America and consequently they are very rare in captivity.

The White-bellied has two subspecies, one of which, the Yellowthigh, is the most common White-bellied in captivity. The Yellow-thigh's coloring differs only by the thighs being yellow instead of green.